Monday, November 12, 2012

TUESDAY POEM - The Silence of The Stars by David Wagoner

I posted this poem earlier this year but because it's a favourite and because night skies with random constellations of stars seem to be at the tip of my paint brush these days, I'm posting it again. . .  

Night Watch (details from work in progress - Oil on Paper)

                 THE SILENCE OF THE STARS

                     When Laurens van der Post one night
                     In the Kalahari Desert told the Bushmen
                     He couldn't hear the stars
                     Singing, they didn't believe him. They looked at him,
                     half-smiling. They examined his face
                     To see whether he was joking
                     Or deceiving them. Then two of those small men
                     Who plant nothing, who have almost
                     Nothing to hunt, who live
                     On almost nothing, and with no one
                     But themselves, led him away
                     From the crackling thorn-scrub fire
                     And stood with him under the night sky
                     And listened. One of them whispered,
                     Do you not hear them now?
                     And van der Post listened, not wanting
                     To disbelieve, but had to answer,
                     No. They walked him slowly
                     Like a sick man to the small dim
                     Circle of firelight and told him
                     They were terribly sorry,
                     And he felt even sorrier
                     For himself and blamed his ancestors
                     For their strange loss of hearing,
                     Which was his loss now. On some clear night
                     When nearby houses have turned off their visions,
                     When the traffic dwindles, when through streets
                     Are between sirens and the jets overhead
                     Are between crossings, when the wind
                     Is hanging fire in the fir trees,
                     And the long-eared owl in the neighboring grove
                     Between calls is regarding his own darkness,
                     I look at the stars again as I first did
                     To school myself in the names of constellations
                     And remember my first sense of their terrible distance,
                     I can still hear what I thought
                     At the edge of silence where the inside jokes
                     Of my heartbeat, my arterial traffic,
                     The C above high C of my inner ear, myself
                     Tunelessly humming, but now I know what they are:
                     My fair share of the music of the spheres
                     And clusters of ripening stars,
                     Of the songs from the throats of the old gods
                     Still tending ever tone-deaf creatures
                     Through their exiles in the desert.

                     David Wagoner

This week's Tuesday Poem editor is Renee Liang 
with Transport
by Riemke Ensing

Please click on the quill. 


  1. Claire, I love this and am glad you re-shared it. From reading it the first time, I took the old gods as the ones in whom I trust to tend me through my exile. xoxo

  2. I love this too - it's so romantic, but touches something inside me that feels like truth.

  3. Thanks for posting this again Claire, It still breathes into me. The first time I read this, I was struck by the silence - the deafness of disconnect. This time I'm more with the poet's in-sight (in-hearing). That terrible distance of the constellations, and yet they sing inside us. (We are starlight ... we are golden ...)